Written by Dianne Berenbaum of Communico. To see the original article, click HERE.
Beltmann Relocation Group (www.beltmann.com) is the oldest and largest hauling and sales agent for North American Van Lines. Owned and operated by the Battina family since 1955, the company is headquartered in Minneapolis, and has expanded into 12 branch locations.
Its capacity is unique in the industry; it owns a fleet of more than 700 specialized moving vans, tractors, trailers and straight trucks. And, it is equipped to service individuals, families and corporate clients in the United States and internationally.
From the very start, Beltmann’s vision has been to be the most customer-focused company in the moving industry. And, they have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to this vision for over 50 years.
A Corporate-wide Service Pledge
An example of their commitment is the distinctive pledge they adopted: Be the Customer. What does this pledge mean? It means they will strive to understand customer expectations and meet them consistently. It means thinking like the customer, putting themselves in their shoes, so they can determine the best approach in each interaction. It also means that every employee will provide comprehensive, unwavering service every step of the way.
This standard is the same for all associates, from drivers and service staff to corporate leadership. Every employee is expected to sign and honor the pledge. They carry pledge cards with them at all times and give the signed cards to customers before they do any work—to clarify their commitment from the start. And they apply this standard to all customers, from national accounts to individual relocations.
Driven to Meet Customer Needs
The Pledge is a tangible way of showing what’s important; every customer is entitled to hold Beltmann accountable to it. And they do! The Pledge not only encourages feedback, it allows customers to reference specific elements of their service that did not meet expectations. Right on the Pledge is a special e-mail address, which was created to capture customers’ comments and concerns. When a certain customer e-mailed to say he noticed some material on the floor, he referenced a specific item listed on the Packers Pledge: Leave your home free of any packing debris. And, he received immediate action as well as thanks for bringing the concern to their attention so they can continue to learn and improve.
Why encourage customers to complain with such specificity? Beltmann knows that if a customer doesn’t complain, they can lose that customer for good. And, if customers don’t reference specifics of their concerns, they may not only miss the opportunity to address these issues, but they may lose other customers because of them. Their core market and long-standing customers have come to expect a high level of service. Beltmann recognizes that it needs to continually adapt to meet and exceed those expectations. This detailed feedback is invaluable to that end; it allows them to continually raise their service level and improve the customer experience.
Committed to Employee Engagement
“Family” is everything to the Battinas, which is why they consider their employees to be their best asset. They encourage associates to share customer feedback as well as their own ideas on how to exceed customer expectations.
And, they recognize individuals who are living the “Be the Customer” Pledge. Another special “Be the Customer” e-mail address was created just for this purpose. Any message sent to this e-mail will be received by the entire organization. So, if a load crew member wants to acknowledge a driver for his consideration/courtesy/accuracy, he now has a simple way to do just that. And if an associate receives positive feedback from a customer, then she can share it with the whole organization, which means it serves as a morale booster for all.
Beltmann Sets a New Standard
Beltmann also realized the value of developing their people, and sought to provide their associates with the skills needed to deliver consistently exceptional service. Many organizations assume their associates know how to do to this, especially if they have experience in the business. While many associates may know the technical aspects of their roles, they may not know how to manage some of the tougher scenarios with professionalism and grace.
Beltmann came to this realization, thanks to a recommendation from Cartus Corporation, the premier provider of global relocation and workforce development solutions. Beltmann’s national customer care team participated in a MAGIC training program, delivered by a certified MAGIC facilitator at Cartus Corporation.
M.A.G.I.C.® stands for Make A Great Impression on the Customer. It is a training system created by Communico Ltd. (www.communicoltd.com) to help organizations create a culture of exceptional service. The MAGIC program develops associates’ ability to deliver meaningful and memorable interactions—external or internal.
What stood out the most from this interactive experience was MAGIC’s measurable quality standard, The 33 Points of MAGIC. They could see that anyone, at any level, could adopt and model this standard. And, it could become the common language for the whole organization, if everyone experienced the program. The solution: certify one of their associates, David Pitts, senior relocation coordinator (and now trainer), to deliver the training for their organization. After participating in the program, he immediately realized that MAGIC was different from any other training because it:
- addressed the mindset of outstanding service
- focused on practical, observable behaviors needed to deliver an exceptional experience
MAGIC Training Builds Skills and Confidence in Challenging Situations
“Most assume that associates know how to deliver customer service the right way,” noted David. “But you find that, in certain challenging scenarios, associates don’t have the mindset to handle them in a thoughtful, compassionate way.”
David felt the whole program was beneficial, particularly because it helped increase associates’ awareness of what they say and how they say it. They realized that frustration, stress and anxiety are heard in the voice—and in challenging times, they were communicating a message in their tone that did not build customer confidence. In fact, it may have been contributing to increased doubt and stress.
Since David knew his associates’ world, he was also able to tailor the training to his audience, which meant they could demonstrate the new skills right away. One tool in particular helped remove stress from the associates and provide reassurance to the customer that the company cares and will work to find a solution: “The Bad News Burger,” a four-step process for delivering bad news. Now associates grin as they shout “Just delivered a burger” or, on a particularly tough call, “Needed to deliver a double cheeseburger for that customer!” They are more at ease and confident, and having more fun in the process.
“These skills help them get through tough times without developing bad habits or feeling overwhelmed by stress!” exclaimed David.
Key to Sustainability? Commitment, Consistency and Creativity
Senior management, along with the directors and vice presidents of the two key divisions, Household Goods and Logistics Customer Service, had seen initiatives come and go. This one had to be different. They knew they needed to build in ways to support the training to ensure it made the desired impact on the culture and customer satisfaction. Their goal: drive sustainability through practical, engaging ways.
David was dispatched the task of working with department managers to Keep the MAGIC Alive. “We understand that the success of the training will be in our ability to see the principles and behaviors become a part of our core customer service culture, through constant engagement and reinforcement. MAGIC has become the vehicle to our service standard, which is to always Be the Customer by striving to understand their expectations and meeting them consistently,” explained David.
And they are well on their way to achieving this goal with their creative and integrated approach. Here are three of their reinforcement solutions:
1. 33 in 33 Series:
Every Tuesday afternoon, for 33 weeks, David sends out a message to all associates. He highlights one of the points and references the details on how to model that behavior and why it’s important. To ensure associates understand how it is aligned with their business, he demonstrates how “the point of the week” is relevant to their day-to-day interactions.
At the conclusion of the 33-in-33 Series, David plans to move to a monthly theme in newsletter form which will dive deeper into the principles and behaviors outlined in The 33 Points of MAGIC. “We believe that a monthly theme will provide a greater opportunity for extended team discussions, as well as more time for local MAGIC champions to prepare engaging and relevant activities around the theme. We will also highlight a testimonial from one of our customers who had a particularly positive experience with a Beltmann associate who has gone through the MAGIC of Customer Relations Workshop.”
2. Planning Meeting
On Tuesday afternoons, the plan for the Wednesday Huddle is designed. David meets with the Tina Furtak, director of Logistics Customer Service and Valerie Hanley, manager of National Customer Care Center (Household Goods) to plan a fun, engaging meeting that reinforces service principles and behaviors. One week it could be Family Feud, where the answers come from the MAGIC training program. Other weeks may involve the MAGIC Match Game (match the right solution to a particular customer challenge) or other games/videos, as well as skill practices on particularly tough scenarios from different phases of the customer experience.”
3. Wednesday “Hump Day” Huddle
The huddle is the culmination of all the brainstorming and planning from the day before. Every Wednesday morning at 10:30, without fail, everyone who went through the MAGIC training gets together. Then, the planning team leads a discussion on:
The Point of the Week: The manager discusses the specific behaviors related to the point and asks the group to share examples of how and when it can be demonstrated. This helps translate a concept into specific behaviors and wording that can be immediately applied on the job.
The Activity designed in their Planning Meeting: Now it is time to let the games begin! Or, the leaders engage the group in skill practices on customer situations that are particularly challenging or relevant for that time of the year. And, sometimes, they watch a video or just talk…about what’s working, what they need, or where they need help.
The bottom line: The Huddle is all about connecting, sharing, reinforcing the standard and having a great time in the process.
Recognition Programs Designed to Support, Encourage and Reward
How do you ensure your recognition program encompasses the whole organization, so you maintain the momentum, and encourage the right skills?
“I Caught You” E-mails
When any associate hears someone else being MAGIC, they send an email to a special e-mail address with the subject line: “I caught them.” The message contains the name of the person as well as the specific MAGIC points demonstrated. Not only do they receive a reply noting, “You’ve been caught,” but the associate’s managers and directors receive it as well.
Associates can use this same e-mail address to send confidential questions about particularly tough situations or clarification on any of the points. They are also encouraged to share their feelings or concerns, so they feel listened to and understood.
The benefits are clear:
- The associate feels a sense of accomplishment and confidence because another associate recognized them for being MAGIC
- The associates feel a sense of pride because leadership is aware of their accomplishments
- Everyone in the organization is learning and growing. They increase their understanding of the specificity of each point as well as how it relates to their world. This ensures they are able to recognize the behavior when it is demonstrated by others, and model it themselves.
- Everyone feels heard since they have a confidential resource for support.
Beltmann is dedicated to recognizing the right behaviors and wanted a systematic way to reward those who excel, those who truly symbolize MAGIC. What better way to do that than a quarterly MAGIC Idol contest, open to every associate in the organization. To win, an associate needs to measurably demonstrate the ability to model and hear MAGIC behaviors. Here’s how it works:
1. Every associate receives a monthly score based on two different components:
- Actual Calls: Associates are monitored once a week and get an average score for the month
- MAGIC Workouts, Communico’s Online Reinforcement Tool: Associates take one a month and receive a score based on their ability to identify MAGIC behaviors in a pre-recorded call.This tool helps associates and their managers see how well they hear and understand the different behaviors. Because “if you have difficulty hearing MAGIC, you will have difficulty modeling it,” noted David.
2. Monthly MAGIC Idols are selected, based on the highest scores in the Logistics and Household Goods Departments, and then awarded a cash prize for their achievement.
3. Every quarter, one lucky winner from each department wins a monetary prize and a company paid lunch with any manager of their choice. And, a communication goes out to the entire company to congratulate and honor the MAGIC Idol of the Quarter.
This contest is sure to get associates singing the praises of their MAGIC associates.
Measurable Results and Industry Recognition
All this talk about MAGIC and Idols may sound like a lot of fun and games. Well, it is…but it is also a whole lot more. Tina Furtak explained, “Great customer service is at the core of every successful organization. The MAGIC program has given Beltmann the means to truly provide our employees with the tools to handle every customer interaction successfully, with confidence, knowledge and empathy, regardless of the situation.”
It also helped Beltmann deliver impressive measurable results:
From first quarter 2009 to first quarter 2010, their quality score moved from 4.4/5.0 to 4.59/5.0. Much of this increase can be attributed to the fact they gained an internal facilitator with industry and role specific experience, and had a sustainability plan in place.
2010 North American Van Lines Awards
Beltmann won seven different awards in 2010, a record for the organization
Individual Location Awards:
- Agent of the Year 2009-2010: Executive Class—Cleveland
- Consumer Shipment Growth: Beltmann Phoenix
- Consumer Shipment Growth: Beltmann New Jersey
- Largest Consumer Sales Agent
- Largest Corporate Sales Agent
- Corporate Shipment Growth
Van Line Award:
- Top hauler
The Cartus platinum designation is given to only a small percentage of Cartus suppliers; those who achieve a satisfaction rating of over 95% based on customer surveys. For the period measured, Beltmann achieved a satisfaction rating of nearly 97% and were ranked sixth best out of more than 60 service providers used by Cartus.
A Meaningful Difference in the Organization
The benefits of the initiative were not just reflected in hard growth numbers, but also in associate satisfaction and confidence. The summer of 2010 turned out to be a high volume year, and they experienced a bigger spike in business than expected. So, it was another stressful time like 2008, when the economy took a real toll on the industry.
But this time was different. Thanks to MAGIC, they were prepared with the tools needed to deal with the stressful scenarios. Jennifer Sotomayor, coordinator, shared, “I gained a better understanding of how our customers perceive situations and what I can do to make good choices in helping the customers with their needs. I am now able to handle stress in a different way and have the tools to minimize personal stress levels when situations are out of my control.”
One of the key differences is that they knew how to empathize and deliver bad news with the Bad News Burger. They even had fun with it. MAGIC helped them remove the stress and become more at ease and confident, which is vital during a service challenge. And their responses reassured customers that Beltmann cares and is working to find a solution.
What’s Next? Keeping it Alive throughout the Organization
The plan is to roll out MAGIC to the entire organization. According to Marc Van Kley, president, “MAGIC has proven to be a cost-effective training program that has generated very positive feedback from our employees. It has helped us live our commitment to “Be the Customer” and has improved our communication skills when interacting with external and internal customers.”
David is ready to implement that plan and ensure that every employee goes through MAGIC. He’s also determined to keep it alive. His mind is whirring with ideas—Skype updates, videos, and posters to name a few. “After all,” notes David, “You can’t have too much MAGIC.”
With that kind of commitment, it’s clear that Beltmann is well on its way to being a star and perhaps even an idol in the hauling industry.
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